I thought you might be interested in an experiment I have been carrying out over the winter.
Back in November I spotted that Sainsbury's were going to sell fresh pea shoots in little plastic packages. I was intrigued, and did a bit of research. Apparently they are commonly eaten in Asia and lots of people have little patches of thickly sown peas, to harvest as pea shoots.
According to Joy Larkcom in Oriental Vegetables, they can be grown thickly sown in seed trays, so I thought I would give it a try. She also said that you could expect your first harvest in about a month, although of course the weight of the harvest will be quite small since the pea shoots (the top leaves and tendrils) weigh nothing at all.
I sowed my first set of pea seeds on 14th November. I had two varieties of hardy peas - Douce Provence and Pilot, and sowed half a seed tray of each. I left them to germinate in the spare room, which is heated. The Pilot peas started to germinate on 25th November, and by the 28th were a couple of inches tall. The Douce Provence completely failed to germinate. I then moved the whole tray out into an unheated room on the back of the house which is effectively a badly designed conservatory that we're intending to pull down because it has no ventilation. But I currently use it for overwintering plants as I have no greenhouse.
I guessed the problems with germination were due to the relatively high temperature in my spare room, and did a germination test by sprouting a handful of each variety in my sprouting jars (the seeds were initially soaked for 24 hours, then drained. I rinsed them every day after that). In my unheated kitchen they almost all germinated by 30th November and I sowed them all - I crammed 70 Pilot and about 100 Douce Provence seeds into two seed trays and left them in the unheated room.
I had my first harvest of pea shoots in late January, from the original sowing of Pilot peas. There weren't too many plants and I only harvested a handful of shoots, and we had them wilted into fried rice. Pea shoots are supposed to taste of peas, but there weren't really enough to discern a particular flavour.
I took my second harvest in the middle of February, and by this time the second, thicker, sowing was ready for the first harvest and I got enough to add make potato and pea shoot soup, which was very nice.
Considering the total neglect they suffer (they're on capillary matting, so they don't suffer from drought, but I don't visit them often) I would consider this experiment a reasonable success. It is possible to grow pea shoots easily, in winter, and they will tolerate being thickly sown to produce a reasonable harvest. It's not going to solve the 'hungry gap', but they are nice fresh greens.
The Douce Provence are much shorter and stockier plants than the Pilot, which are rapidly tangling themselves into a mess. The first sowing of Pilot peas have re-sprouted after being harvested and are growing more shoots. I don't know how long they will crop for, but according to Joy Larkcom they shouldn't need feeding.
Anything to do with growing herbs and vegetables goes here.
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cheers for posting that I had not heard of pea shoots. I think I will do a bit of experimenting myself. Although there will be a bit of competition for window sill space with all the seedlings I do hate it when I see vegetables in plastic packaging it seems like such a waste.
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